It was a Wednesday night, a time usually reserved for a mediocre night in. So it left us surprised as we mounted the stairs to the top of the Institute in Birmingham to find a world where mediocre had no place even being thought of.
Opening with support from the fearless Bobbie Johnson, the evening kicked off on a fiesty note. The singer/rapper was a wordy belle, producng hard-hitting lyrics with the ease of a breath. She might not have been to everyone’s taste but she sure had skill, igniting more than enough high-spirited audience members as her grimey beats took over the room. With people dubbing her a rapping Adele, she’s bound to be hitting your speakers pretty soon.
When the cries of ‘Rory’ started up within the crowd, you knew it was time for Rag’n’Bone Man to make his live debut in Birmingham. The Institute was the penultimate stop with Thursday marking the end of his headline UK tour that saw Rory Graham selling out venues before he hops across the pond to do a stint playing a variety of European venues. The tour comes before the release of his debut solo album, due for release next year, that can be tasted in his number 1 single ‘Human’ (a track that was greeted with pure delight on the night).
It was a heart-warming sight seeing Graham stroll onto the stage. Making a comparison with this and his early performances, it’s easy to see how far the man has come. Swamping his shyness for humble acknowledgment, Rag’n’Bone Man was full of modest confidence as he dared to unleash that powerful voice on a packed out Institute, proving just how far he has come.
The mishmashed audience prepared themselves for what they were about to hear. After a short intake of breath, Graham reveal his vocal abilities in all their glory. It holds the right pitch, tempo and dynamics to hit the heart straight on, having the courage to head straight for your soul and split it up into pieces before rearranging it into something completely unthinkable. Taking us through new songs and old, it was his voice that acted as a detox to all the horrors 2016 has decided to bring with it.
He evidently hasn’t lost touch with planet earth with his steady rise to fame, announcing after a more somber tune that he does have happy songs too and that his next track was just one of those: ‘Lay My Body Down’, a song about a serial killer. Whilst ‘Lay Me Down’ swept in like the gust of an exceptional storm, some of Graham’s new material was leaving the audience on tenterhooks. A favourite of mine was ‘Fire’ (correct me if I’m wrong), a track full of deep abyss’s and rouge moods, matched perfectly on stage by the dark lighting and the weighty force of an excellent band behind him.
By the end of the night, it was obvious that Rag’n’Bone Man’s name would be too large for just a 300 capacity venue. Littering the evening with his ‘Human’ masterpiece and the resounding ‘Wolves’, it was inevitable that his presence would be leaving marks on anyone in hearing distance. This was something that become immediately obvious as talking to fans at the end of the night who were simply overcome by emotion, they had nothing but impassioned feedback on performance. His debut is sure to be a high point of 2017.